Zito’s Bakery, Bleecker Street – Berenice Abbott (American, 1898–1991)

Baeckerei Wien

Old bakery, 7th District, Vienna – 2007, Friedrich Walzer


Boulangerie / Patisserie, Cessenon, France


Old bakery in Orta S.Giulio, Italy – Daniela Minardi


Bakery in Saranda, Albania, 1991. The shelves were devoid of bread.


Modern bakery, Albania. Plenty of bread available, and many other things. Photo by Angela Gjoligu.

The Old Wolf is now hungry for bread.


Hello Central!

Earlier this year I posted this essay about telephone operators; today I happened across this picture which brought back the same kinds of memories.


In an age of smartphones and global cellular service, this is an aspect of life that neither my children nor my grandchildren will never know. I used to think it odd that my own grandparents grew up in an era without airplanes or television, and now I am experiencing what that double-perspective must have been like for them.




The Old Wolf has Spoken.

Rule 101: You haven’t seen the scariest thing on the internet


See, that’s the way the Internet is. But even knowing that, it will often surprise you.

In the mid 19th century, Brigham Young came up with a new alphabet designed to help foreign-speaking immigrants to the State of Deseret (otherwise known as the Utah territory) learn to read English. Developed by the board of regents of the University of Deseret (later the University of Utah,) it was known as the Deseret Alphabet. Four volumes were published in the alphabet in 1868 – two primers (the Deseret First Book and the Deseret Second Book), extracts from the Book of Mormon and a complete volume of the latter. The Deseret News published a column printed in the new alphabet, and there are still diaries, letters, meeting minutes, coinage and one headstone in Cedar City, Utah, to attest to its brief existence.


Mormon five-dollar gold piece, inscribed with “Holiness to the Lord” in Deseret Alphabet.


The gravestone in Cedar City. The inscription reads,

“In memory of John T. Morris Born Feb
14 1828 Lanfair Tahaira
Danbyshire North Wales.
Died Feb 20, 1855 Aged 27”

Deseret Alphabet Reader 1868

The Deseret Second Book.

Deseret Second Book Sample

Sample from the Deseret Second Book. Lesson 3 is entitled “The Spring,” Lesson 4 is “The Hare.”

As with other spelling reforms initiated during the same period of history, it never caught on. Immigrants preferred to learn English with all its horrid spelling [1] in a script that most of them already knew than try to struggle with an entirely new alphabet, and the Deseret Alphabet quietly died.

Or so it seemed.

Searching this morning, just out of curiosity as to what the printed volumes are selling for these days (I own copies, you see,) I happened across this:


It seems that an afficionado of the Deseret Alphabet (as intimated above, there are afficionadi for everything, no matter how obscure) has taken the trouble to transliterate every XKCD into Deseret Alphabet. I, too, am an afficionado of the Deseret Alphabet; this dude is the linguistic equivalent of Techno Bill. The irony here is delicious – I couldn’t think of a more appropriate, edgy strip to retrogress back into a failed religious experiment. For the curious, the original page where this strip is found includes links to the English version of the comic so you can see what it says. It is of note that the Unicode Consortium took note of the Deseret Alphabet, so regardless of whether or not interest in the artifact continues, it will always have a place in history.

As obscure as it is, this delights me no end, as I made a study of the Deseret Alphabet during my days as a master’s candidate in applied linguistics. And, just in case you think that you’ve reached the bottom of strangeness with this little bit of whimsy, you may want to have a peep here, if you dare. Rule 101 has no bottom. [2]

𐐜 𐐄𐐒𐐔 πšπƒπ’π™ 𐐐𐐈𐐞 𐐝𐐑𐐄𐐗𐐀.

[1] You’re not certain English spelling is all that bad? Try reading “The Chaos”, found at this page. I triple-dog dare you to read it through without any mistakes. Any non-native speakers who can do so win the Internet. I’m looking atΒ you, Bjornar.

[2] I’m not even talking about the dark underbelly of the internet. Trust me, you don’t want to go there. That way lies madness.

Merry Christmas to All


Thomas Nast, the German-born American cartoonist, gave us our image of Santa Claus, although his civil war illustrations included a bit of gruesome realism not usually found in Christmas greetings:


Note the severed heads of southern leaders surrounding Ulysses S. Grant in the bottom panel.

Prior to Nast’s illustrations of Santa Claus, that worthy had an entirely different appearance, witness this 1858 illustration from Harper’s Weekly:


However you celebrate the season – or don’t, as the case may be – my wish is that the holiday and coming year might find you with an abundance of peace and those things which you value.

The Old Wolf has spoken.

Let’s help the Mint out a bit, shall we?

According to this article at Newser, “Penny Costs 2 Cents to Make, Mint Stumped on Fix”.

They’ve been trying to create new pennies out of all sorts of materials, but can’t seem to come up with a cheaper alternative.

From a numismatic standpoint, I would “die” to have one of these patterns:


Martha Washington Penny Pattern, with “In God We Trust” and ‘Liberty” scrambled

But that aside, I have the perfect solution for the mint, if they’d just take my advice:

Stop making pennies. Eliminate them altogether.

There. You’re welcome.

Oh, and you say a nickel costs 11Β’ to make, but a penny costs 2Β’? Well, once you’ve gotten rid of the penny, that leaves all that existing manufacturing equipment available for making the new, smaller 5Β’ piece… for only 2Β’. Yes, vending machine owners all across the country will have to adjust, but it wouldn’t be the first time. Times change.

The Old Wolf’s two penn’orth.


The Lamplighter


Photo copyright Β©2012 Jan-Edward Vogels



Lamplighter, Victoria Terrace, Edinburgh, 1928. Photographer Unknown

The Lamplighter

My tea is nearly ready and the sun has left the sky;
It’s time to take the window to see Leerie going by;
For every night at teatime and before you take your seat,
With lantern and with ladder he comes posting up the street
Now Tom would be a driver and Maria go to sea,
And my papa’s a banker and as rich as he can be;
But I, when I am stronger and can choose what I’m to do,
O Leerie, I’ll go round at night and light the lamps with you
For we are very lucky, with a lamp before the door,
And Leerie stops to light it as he lights so many more;
And O! before you hurry by with ladder and with light,
O Leerie, see a little child and nod to him tonight!
-Robert Louis Stevenson

This poem, one of my favorites in A Child’s Garden of Verses, refers to the days when lamplighters would come around the streets of Edinburgh, lighting the gas lamps. As a child, Stevenson was an invalid (hence the reference to “when I am stronger”), and looking out of the window to see the lamplighter would be a bright spot in the lonely child’s day; to be noticed and nodded to would be exceptional.)



A Child’s Garden of Verses, Platt and Munk, 1929, illustrations by Eulalie

In a book that I wish everyone in the world could read, because it is filled with goodness and sadness and love and despair, and the kind of language that Eudora Welty and O. Henry and Walter Van Tilburg Clark knew how to use, language which not only conveys a message but which also fills the mouth – language which, like a finely aged beef or a vintage wine, deserves to be rolled around on the tongue and savored – William Saroyan wrote:

THE LITTLE BOY named Ulysses Macauley one day stood over the new gopher hole in the backyard of his house on Santa Clara Avenue in Ithaca, California. The gopher of this hole pushed up fresh moist dirt and peeked out at the boy, who was certainly a stranger but perhaps not an enemy. Before this miracle had been fully enjoyed by the boy, one of the birds of Ithaca flew into the old walnut tree in the backyard and after settling itself on a branch broke into rapture, moving the boy’s fascination from the earth to the tree. Next, best of all, a freight train puffed and roared far away. The boy listened, and felt the earth beneath him tremble with the moving of the train. Then he broke into running, moving (it seemed to him) swifter than any life in the world.
When he reached the crossing he was just in time to see the passing of the whole train, from locomotive to caboose. He waved to the engineer, but the engineer did not wave back to him. He waved to five others who were with the train, but not one of them waved back. They might have done so, but they didn’t. At last a Negro appeared leaning over the side of a gondola. Above the clatter of the train, Ulysses heard the man singing:

“Weep no more my lady, 0 weep no more today
We will sing one song for the old Kentucky home
For the old Kentucky home far away”

Ulysses waved to the Negro too, and then a wondrous and unexpected thing happened. This man, black and different from all the others, waved back to Ulysses, shouting: “Going home, boy-going back where I belong!” The small boy and the Negro waved to one another until the train was almost out of sight

Then Ulysses looked around. There it was, all around him, funny and lonely-the world of his life. The strange, weed-infested, junky, wonderful, senseless yet beautiful world. Walking down the track came an old man with a rolled bundle on his back. Ulysses waved to this man too, but the man was too old and too tired to be pleased with a small boy’s friendliness. The old man glanced at Ulysses as if both he and the boy were already dead.
The little boy turned slowly and started for home. As he moved, he still listened to the passing of the train, the singing of the Negro, and the joyous words: “Going home, boy-going back where I belong!” He stopped to think of all this, loitering beside a china-ball tree and kicking at the yellow, smelly, fallen fruit of it. After a moment he smiled the smile of the Macauley people-the gentle, wise, secret smile which said Hello to all things.

-William Saroyan, The Human Comedy

Apparently the profession lasted a lot longer than I had realized; the picture in London below is purported to have been taken in 1962, found at /r/historyporn.


Today as in the past, little children with their hearts full of innocence and wonder wave to the big people passing by; the delight that illuminates their faces on the rare occasion when someone takes the time to notice them, and wave back, or nod, or smile, or say hello, is large return on a small investment. Here’s a perfect modern example:

Notice the children.

The Old Wolf has spoken.